1 min read

Keep the risks low as the temperatures rise

Summer has arrived in Australia, bringing with it several health and safety risks that just don’t exist (or don’t exist to the same extent) the rest of the year. Before the worst of the heat hits, you should ensure you understand the risks that heat can have on a wide range of workers – not just those who work long periods in direct sun but also people working indoors or in confined spaces during heatwaves.

Identifying the risks

Risks workers can face in summer include:

  • fatigue;
  • dehydration;
  • heat-related illness like heat stroke; and
  • sunburn.

And don’t forget exposure to UV radiation from the sun can cause permanent and irreversible damage to the skin and eyes, and of course skin cancer. The risk from exposure to UV exists all year round but increases during the summer months.

It is important to consider a range of work environments where these risks are present – not only the obvious like working outside in the sun. For example, workers operating machinery or vehicles with limited ventilation or no air-conditioning.

Reducing the risks

To reduce the risks caused by working in the summer months, consider whether the following controls are appropriate for your workplace:

  • reduce physical activity in the heat by using mechanical aids to reduce exertion;
  • check in on workers to monitor for signs of fatigue and heat stroke;
  • provide workers with suitable personal protective equipment;
  • make sure there is adequate water available to keep workers hydrated;
  • plan the day to prioritise strenuous work during the cooler periods of the day and less strenuous tasks in the warmer periods;
  • implement additional rest breaks during the day, particularly in a cool or shaded area;
  • ensure workers take more breaks;
  • in your toolbox talks, discuss the risks of working in the heat, including identifying the signs of fatigue and heatstroke;
  • arrange for work indoors (if possible) or scheduling work when the UV index is lower; and
  • provide sun shelters.
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